Niantic made a name for itself in the mobile gaming industry with the massive success of Pokémon Go. The company now hopes to become a platform for other developers to build location-aware augmented reality applications.
The company is expanding its augmented reality program to cover the world with a 3D map of apps and games.
Several major tech companies are now linking maps to AR-ready location data, including Meta, Google, Microsoft and Snap, ahead of plans to roll out AR glasses.
This plan has been in the works since at least 2018. But Niantic has come a long way with the release of its augmented reality location-mapping software called Visual Positioning System, or VPS.
This technology allows augmented reality experiences to be grounded in a physical location. Developers can now use Visual GPS as a support feature within Niantic’s broader Lightship SDK, which also allows multiple devices to access a shared AR experience at the same time .
Visual GPS will be free during an initial public trial period and will transition later this year to a tiered billing system based on the number of app users per month.
In addition to visual GPS, the company is also launching Campfire, a location-based social network that integrates with its future Lightship games and apps.
Campfire takes advantage of the friends list within your Niantic account to show their locations across the map if you sign up, along with nearby in-game experiences.
Niantic transcends gaming with Campfire social network
Campfire aims to make company gaming more social. It also aims to provide a way for other developers to enable millions of company users to discover their Lightship-powered applications.
To power the visual GPS, Niantic relied on millions of phone camera scans of real-world locations by Ingress and Pokémon Go players.
It claims to have more than 20,000 locations around the world. It also has centimeter-accurate maps of large parts of San Francisco, London, Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York City, and Seattle.
Niantic hopes to provide an important part of the infrastructure for augmented reality applications, whether it is via phones or through smart glasses.
The company charges developers for access to Lightship’s servers, including its visual GPS and multiplayer functionality.
This gives Niantic a potential source of revenue that exceeds the large amount of money it makes from Pokemon Go. And two months ago, Niantic bought 8th Wall, a startup that sells augmented reality development tools for the web.
Niantic plans to allow 8th Wall to continue operating with the Lightship integration. This allows browser-based augmented reality experiences to access its mapping technology.
The company aims to create tools for people who want to create apps that they can run across platforms, own and control.